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Hanson v. Fowler - White, Burnett, P.A., 117 So. 3d 1127 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2012)

Rule:

To prevail on a legal malpractice claim, a client has to prove that he or she would have prevailed on the underlying action but for the attorney's negligence.

Facts:

The client's action had its genesis in a federal lawsuit brought by a captain for imposition of a maritime lien against the client's vessel, for foreclosure of that lien, and for damages against the client for fraud and unjust enrichment. Following the final appeal in the federal courts, the client claimed that the lawyers were negligent in failing to raise a set-off defense to the captain's complaint for a maritime lien. The lawyers moved for summary judgment, which, the state circuit court granted. The client thereafter appealed.

Issue:

Was the client able to prove that his lawyers commited legal malpractice?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The Florida appellate court held that the client was unable to show that "but for" the lawyers' alleged negligent conduct, he would have obtained some other favorable result in the federal proceeding. Consequently, since no legal malpractice was or could be demonstrated, the trial court properly granted the lawyers' motion for summary judgment.

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